Well here you go, yet another chapter in this drawn out story! I'd just like to thank everyone for the reviews/alerts/favorites. It's really made my life :P And thanks for sticking with it this far, as well. Even through my horrible writing of the beginning chapters *sheepish grin* I read through the beginning of this story again, and frankly it's embarrassing . I'll be rewriting most of it, when I get the chance. Probably before I post the next chapter.
Harry led the way toward the far side of the lake, the sound of his hurried footsteps muffled by the thick grass. Trailing behind him were McGonagall, Hermione, Ron, and Snape. Snape had happened to be up in McGonagall's office when Hermione went to find her; therefore he was along with them.
Harry's pace quickened to a light jog as he spotted the spot in between the lake's bank and the trees. He stopped short as he came to the spot, his head swiveling back and forth, squinting down the bank and searching. As if his mind was being read, Snape spoke.
"Mr. Potter, didn't you say he left his robe here when he was dragged off? Well by the looks of it, there isn't one here." Snape drawled mockingly, crossing his arms in the most defiant way.
"It was here, I swear it was!" Harry tried weakly, a lump growing in his throat dangerously as he continued to scan the area. It had been here, dammit! "Maybe one of them came back and dragged it off too! Maybe something from the forest came out and got it, I don't know! But it was here! And Draco's probably hurt somewhere! We have to find him!" He cried out, his angry eyes flying from adult to adult, pleading, urging.
"Mr. Potter, I'm sorry, but without that evidence, we have to take into account the fact You-Know-Who could have implanted that vision in your head to draw you to him," McGonagall stated, resting her hands on her hips.
"But! But why was Draco human again? When I'd left him a few hours ago he was still transfigured!"
The two adults exchanged glances for a moment before McGonagall cleared her throat, fixing Harry with her stern gaze. "Well Mr. Potter, Professor Snape transfigured him back this afternoon. There were a few complications, so he brought Mr. Malfoy up so I could correct them. Surely he told you?"
Harry's eye twitched dangerously and he looked down and away, counting to ten in his head. "So you just let him wander off outside on his own afterwards?" He ground out from between clenched teeth, ignoring the fact no had had thought to inform him of this earlier.
"He requested to do so, and I trusted he didn't need to be watched like a mere child. He's probably waiting down in my office now. Watch your mouth, Potter," Snape sneered. "I'll be returning to the castle now, if that's all the nonsense you have to spew for the time being."
With a dramatic flip of his robes he turned and strode off in the opposite direction. Harry glared daggers on his retreating back as he watched him go, unspoken insults burning on his tongue.
McGonagall cleared her throat, and attention was quickly turned back towards her. "I'm sorry Potter, but I'm afraid there's nothing I can do for now. If more proof comes forth that he really was taken, we will look into it. But for now, we just can't take that chance." She offered him a sympathetic but stern look before turning to follow Snape back to the castle.
As soon as she was out of ear-shot Harry let out an angry string of curses, digging the toes of his right foot into the soft ground.
"Calm down, mate," Ron spoke up from a few feet away. "They could be right you know. Just give it a bit, and see if he turns up."
"I agree with Ron," Hermione murmured quickly, her gaze resting somewhere over his left shoulder. Surprise coursed through him momentarily, but quickly changed to anger as he realized the implements of their words.
"Leave. Both of you!" He sneered, pointing toward the castle, looking out over the lake. "I just - I can't deal with this right now." With that he turned from them, crossing his arms as if saying there was no room for argument. He stood like this for a few minutes longer, waiting until he heard the sounds of retreating footsteps.
"Good riddance of the ferret, if he really is gone. Don't see why Harry's so upset," Harry heard Ron mumble to Hermione as they grew farther away from him.
"Ronald!" She hissed, then her tone changed. "But Harry has been awfully moody lately, don't you think?"
Their next words trailed off as they grew farther and farther away and Harry lowered himself to the ground, picking at a large strand a grass poking out between his feet.
This was not good. No one bloody believed him! Had he not earned any respect or credibility over the last several years? Did they not realize at this point that he new bloody well what he was doing most of the time? He hated being treated like a child; like he knew nothing and was supposed to rely on the adults in his life to take care of everything for him while he sat in the background and watched it all roll out before his very eyes.
Well if they weren't going to trust him, he'd have to prove them wrong. He let out a deep, calming breath and lay back into the grass. He needed to settle down and think before he could help anyone.
Streaks of light pink and yellow streamed across the sky and clouds above him as the sun began to set, like messy strokes of an artist. Dinner was probably going on right about now.
He could imagine Hermione and Ron, along with the rest of Hogwarts all sitting in the Great Hall talking and laughing, and completely carefree while he lay out here, his stomach in knots.
How long he lay there, whether it be minutes or hours, he couldn't recall, but the sun was threatening to disappear behind the horizon as he stood and stretched, getting rid of the stiffness in his back and legs. His shadow stretched out far in front of him.
He turned and faced the woods Draco had been dragged into. Would he ever see the boy again? Voldemort hadn't put the vision in his head, and he knew it. Why couldn't they just believe him?
He took a pained step closer, gazing into the dark foliage as if expecting Draco to come bounding out toward him any second, a grin plastered on his laughing face. Harry waited a few agonizing seconds more.
Something rustled in the bushes at the edge of the forest and Harry's heart leaped into his mouth. A small squirrel darted from the cover of the leaves, bolting to another tree not far away. Harry's heart sank.
Why had he remained out here once the others had left, again? He had to remind himself. All he wanted now was to be back in The Room of Requirements alone with Draco, cuddling and getting ready to go to sleep.
He hated to admit it even to himself but he wished with every fiber of his being Snape had been right, and Draco would be upstairs ready to apologize when he got there.
Harry froze, his eyes coming to rest on the ground at the edge of the trees. His heart jumped once again with a mixture of triumph and relief as he gazed upon the thing that could save Draco. Every other thought in the world flew from his mind, and he spun in place, taking off at a full sprint toward the castle, his robes billowing out behind him, bits of grass and dirt flying out from underneath his trainers. He had the perverse urge to laugh as he grew closer and closer to the castle, and farther and farther away from the deep grooves in the earth where Draco's heals had drug into the ground in a desperate attempt to escape mere hours before.
Darkness. Nothing else appeared to him as he opened his eyes, blinking away the last of sleepiness. He became aware of the cold seeping into him from the hard ground he lay on, shivering as he tried to sit up. Something cold and hard bit into his wrists, which were bound behind his back.
Where was he? He turned to the left, and his shoulder gave a sharp twinge in protest of the action. Then the events of the previous day flooded back to him. Pansy gave him away, he'd bit Harry, he'd been changed back, and then he'd been taken away.
Which brings us to the present. He closed his eyes again and took two steadying breaths before opening them. His eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness, and he could make out the small corners of his cell. A wooden door with no handle stood before him on the far wall.
His body ached all over. The backs of his legs throbbed and his arms and shoulders ached in the uncomfortable cuffs connecting his wrists. The shoulder in which he'd been bitten stung horribly, but other than that he seemed to be undamaged.
With great effort he stood, almost tipping over a few times. His knees felt weak and wobbly under his weight and he was forced to lean against the wall for a few minutes to gather himself again.
Finally he pushed himself from the wall and walked to the middle of the small room. Turning on the spot he surveyed his surroundings; searching the cracked and rough stone of the walls as best he could. There weren't any windows, and seemingly no escape route other than the door with no handle.
Suddenly and without warning panic and fear crept into his stomach and grabbed hold of him like a cold hand. Where was he? What was going to happen to him? What if he couldn't escape this? What if no one came for him? And most importantly; who waited for him on the other side of that door?
He crept back over to the corner he'd previously occupied and sunk back down to the floor. His eyes never left the door before him, not wanting to miss the second the sounds of feet or muffled voices came through from the other side.
He ached for his wand, which he knew was stored up in the Room of Requirements somewhere, maybe thousands of miles away, who knew? Maybe he was still somewhere in Hogwarts.
All he could do now was sit and wait.
"Are you in or aren't you?" Harry asked of his two best friends, walking around the boys' dormitory, gathering his traveling and invisibility cloak.
Harry had already fetched McGonagall and shown her the tracks, pure evidence of what had happened, but yet she still had looked slightly skeptical. She grudgingly agreed, though, and had gone to make preparations. That wasn't quite fast enough for him, though. He'd been planning on going alone, when Hermione and Ron had found him and demanded details on his plans.
"We really should wait until the Order decides what to do," Hermione said wearily, looking around at Ron for backup. He nodded firmly in agreement.
"It's best that way, I think. I don't even see why you want to go anyways…" he trailed off, looking away and around the room.
Harry shook his head. "Then I'm going alone. I don't blame you for not coming, but it's something I have to do. I can't just leave him there." He said it firmly, letting them know there would be no swaying him.
"How do you plan to get out of Hogwarts?" Hermione asked quietly, obvious curiosity in her voice.
"I'll take the passageway out into Hogsmead and disapperate from there." He said easily.
"Disapperate to where? Do you even know where he is?" Ron asked, his eyebrows coming together in confusion.
Harry opened his mouth to respond, and closed it again when he realized he didn't know the answer. His thoughts had been whirring too quickly with his rescue plan he hadn't even thought about where the boy could be hidden at. Well, that was a problem. "No," he said simply, looking up at them. "But I guess I'll just have to figure it out."
Hermione looked at him skeptically. She opened her mouth to make a rebuttal, and then she vanished. Where Hermione had stood seconds before stood a tall man, draped in a black cloak.
He stood in a big dining room, it looked like. A giant marble table stood beside where he paced. His long white fingers twirled the wand in his hands. The man in front of him spoke. "What shall we do now my lord? Now that we have the boy?"
Harry felt a cold grin spread across his face as he continued to study his wand. "Now. Now we wait. It won't be long." A maniacal laugh threatened to escape him, and he looked out the window against the far wall, which opened up to a dark yard. The long hedged drive way curled into the distance and a single white peacock hopped along the foliage. He turned back to the room, looking now at the fire place behind him. On the mantel piece stood four pictures. The first of a small family of three; a mother, a father, and a little boy who was smiling and waving at the camera. The second of two adults entwined with each other, smiling, their long blonde hair floating around them. The third of a blonde teenager in Slytherin robes, sneering. The last of the family again, this time all standing and staring with stony gazes out at him.
Now he did laugh, his long white arm extended in front of him and he set the pictures a flame.
And suddenly he was staring up at scarlet fabric. A face popped up in front of him and he was forced into a sitting position as he stared at Ron and Hermione, standing on either side of the bed he was now laying on, looks of worry and shock on their faces.
"They're at Malfoy Manner!" he stage-whispered to them, his eyes wide, looking around frantically for where his cloaks and his wand lay. They lay on the floor beside his bed and he hopped of , stooping to pick them up and turning back to Ron and Hermione. "He's expecting me to come."
"Then you mustn't go!" Hermione exclaimed, rounding the bed to block him from the door. "Think rationally Harry!" She looked desperate for him to understand now, her eyes pleading with him.
Harry turned his back on her to look at Ron. "I'm going. Are you coming or aren't you?"
Ron looked obviously torn, he glanced over Harry's shoulder at Hermione for confirmation before looking back at him with a weird grin, dropping a large hand on his shoulder. "We're with you."